The Carolina Hurricanes have completely re-vamped. From officially hiring Rod Brind’Amour as the team’s head coach in 2018, to strong drafting in the past eight years, the team has gone from an afterthought in the Eastern Conference, to one of the most exciting teams in the NHL.
Let’s look back at some of the events that made the Hurricanes a contender for years to come.
2012 NHL Draft
The ‘Canes drafted the heart and soul of their team in 2012, Brock McGinn and Jaccob Slavin. Quite frankly, without these two, they wouldn’t have had a playoff run in 2018-19.
Slavin is a big reason why the Hurricanes are one of the hardest teams to play against defensively. He might not have the name of a John Carlson, Brent Burns or a Roman Josi, but he is every bit the defenseman.
At 6-foot-4, Slavin uses his size to make it a long night for the opposition’s best offense. He uses his strong skating, his edges very well and his extra-long reach to fend off rushes. On any given night there’s a good chance Slavin will bail out his team multiple times on the backcheck.
He showed in last year’s playoff run that he can put up points as well, scoring 11 in 15 games, all assists. He has the capability of contributing in any way he is needed.
As for McGinn, he scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 to knock off the Washington Capitals in the 2019 Playoffs and has been the heart of what makes Carolina hockey great: effort.
McGinn won’t ever be at the top of the scoresheet at the end of the season, nor will he be the first person to talk after games. He goes about his business, and he does it at about 150 miles an hour. Whether it be on the forecheck or making a key save late, McGinn always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and it has paid off time and again.
2015 NHL Draft
While the ‘Canes drafted Noah Hanifin in the first round in 2015, their second round selection, Sebastian Aho has been the best. Aho has turned into a bonafide star up front. At 22, he has the dynamic playmaking and goal-scoring ability that makes him scary to defend against.
Aho made his first All-Star team in 2019. His success led to him being extended an offer sheet by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019 offseason, which was quickly matched by the Hurricanes.
He was well on his way to tallying 45-plus goals in 2019-20 before the stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic. He improved in all facets of the game this season to become one of the best young players in the league. A dynamic mix of speed and skill, drafting Aho was a feather in the Hurricanes’ cap and started a new wave of talent on offense.
Tom Dundon Takes Over
When Tom Dundon took over as majority owner of the Hurricanes in 2017-18, it changed the way the organization was perceived around the league, for better or for worse.
I am thrilled to continue to build upon what Peter Karmanos started in Raleigh. The Hurricanes are a team on the rise, and I believe we have an opportunity to take the franchise to the next level. I’m ready to get to work.Tom Dundon
Dundon made a series of moves very quickly. He demoted fan favorite and former general manager Ron Francis who was later fired. Head coach Bill Peters resigned. Don Waddell was officially made GM full time, and Brind’Amour was hired as coach after serving in an assistant capacity since 2011.
Not everything he did was well received. Chuck Kaiton, the radio play-by-play announcer for Hurricanes since it’s inaugural season in 1979 was offered an 80 percent pay cut, in essence an invitation to leave. This rubbed people the wrong way, and made Dundon disliked by some of the media.
He sees things differently and doesn’t get emotional about his decisionsCharlotte Jones Anderson (from ‘The two views of Tom Dundon: Carolina Hurricanes’ savior and AAF scourge,’ Washington Post, 04/09/2019)
Under his ownership, the team drafted Andrei Svechnikov with the top pick in the 2018 Draft and added Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton in a trade with the Calgary Flames which helped to set the tone for the new-look Hurricanes. Whether his decisions were popular or not, the team was evolving, and the success on the ice was growing, “The Bunch of Jerks” were forming.
Hiring Rod Brind’Amour
Expectations changed for the club in 2018 when they hired former ‘Canes legend Brind’Amour as head coach. He flat out didn’t accept mediocrity.
The team hadn’t made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009, and that wasn’t going to fly with him.
As a player, I knew what I was getting into when I came here. It’s tough to win here,” he said. “But that’s what I like. I enjoy the challenge. We have to win now. I’ve told Tom (Dundon) so many times he may be tired of hearing it. One way or another, we’ll find out.Rod Brind’Amour
“Win now” he did, leading the Hurricanes to the playoffs for the first time in a decade in his first year on the job.
BUNCH OF JERKS!
Life changed in the blink of an eye when infamous Sportsnet commentator and former Boston Bruins head coach Don Cherry called the team a “Bunch of Jerks,” regarding their celebrations after wins on home ice.
The Hurricanes media leapt into action, creating shirts with “Bunch of Jerks” scripted across the front in big white letters.
Jamie Mottram, the President of BreakingT, the sports apparel company that created the shirts, spoke in an interview about how things came to be:
“You never know when your Don Cherry moment is gonna happen,” he said. “Something is going to happen at some point where everyone’s talking about it, everyone’s fired up about it, everyone wants a t-shirt about it, and you don’t want to have to figure it out in the moment.”
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The t-shirts were everywhere, and the topic caught on like wildfire with members of the media discussing the ‘Canes’ celebrations and whether they were appropriate or lacked good taste. One thing was certain, the team didn’t care. They had their new identity, and with the success they found with that identity, they weren’t going to stop.
The Bunch of Jerks celebrated all the way to the playoffs.
Beating the Capitals
Making the playoffs after an extended drought brought life to the City of Raleigh, and the Hurricanes were headed to Washington to play the defending Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.
After going down two games to none in Washington, the ‘Canes returned home. They got off to a rip-roaring start in front of their fans, taking down the Capitals 5-0 in Game 3 off two goals from Warren Foegele and two goals from Hamilton. They took Game 4 as well, off another big goal from Foegele and the ‘Canes took the series back to Washington all tied at two.
After losing 6-0 in Washington in Game 5, the ‘Canes headed home for Game 6. They again used the home crowd to their advantage, with a 5-2 win with five goals scored by different players that sent the series back to Washington for Game 7.
The Hurricanes trailed 3-0 in Game 7 but fought back with goals from Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Staal. They held off many close calls, including a diving play from McGinn to stop a great chance for the Capitals in front with 2:21 remaining in the third period.
The game went through one overtime and then headed for a second. That’s when things changed. The Hurricanes looked more prepared, and McGinn was the hero, deflecting a pass from captain Justin Williams into the net to send the Hurricanes on to the second round to face the New York Islanders.
The ‘Canes swept the Islanders with big performances from Aho and Teravainen and a stout defense led by Slavin. The sweep sent the team to the Eastern Conference Final to face the Boston Bruins. It also made a statement; it showed the league that the ‘Canes had the firepower to take out any team. However, the win over the Capitals took over the team’s landscape and showed the world that the Hurricanes could take that next step against the NHL’s best.
They lost to the Bruins and swept the Islanders, but the series against the Capitals was an announcement to the league.
The Hurricanes’ Future
With top prospects in the pipeline like Ryan Suzuki, Jake Bean, Dominik Bokk, Jamieson Rees and Patrik Puistola, the team has a wave of talent on the way.
Aho is signed on for four years, as is Teravainen. Brett Pesce and Slavin are signed for five more years beyond this season. Andrei Svechnikov is still on his rookie contract and is likely to be extended. The core of the team isn’t changing any time soon either, barring a trade.
Plug and play pieces at the deadline will be important to keep the team at the top of the Metropolitan Division against the Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Islanders and the resurgent New York Rangers. However, one thing is certain, this isn’t the same team as the ones from five to seven years ago, these jerks, are a whole lot of fun to watch, and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.